Get Personal With Your Customers

What will make your business stand out in today’s crowded market?  A great website?  SEO and back links everywhere?  A well-thought out marketing plan that focuses not just on the digital presence, but old school print too?  Well, all those things are helpful.  But let’s be honest with each other here.   If you’re in business, you’re probably not the only in your field or industry.  Which means you’re not the only one doing what you’re doing.  So, again:  what will help your business stand out, no matter who your competition is?  Getting personal.

Customers remember the stores, the companies and the brands that took their time and made their experiences unique, as if just for them.  Everyone  likes things just for them.  If we didn’t, the business of personalizing would be out of business.  It doesn’t take a whole lot to make a great impression and be memorable.  Getting personal sometimes means keeping it simple:

  • Remember birthdays and anniversaries.  Who doesn’t like something special on their birthday?  Drop something in the mail the next time a customer’s or client’s birthday rolls around.  Let them wish them many more too.  (How do you get this information?  Include it  in your questionnaire when asking for their number and address.)
  • Hand-write those personal notes and messages.  Whether you’re sending  birthday or anniversary cards, thank you notes, or a reminder of an event you’re having, hand-write it.  Mailers and brochures are  nice, but most will get chucked in the trash.  Something handwritten is more likely to be opened.
  • Speaking of anniversaries, remember the dates when your clients became your clients.  You don’t need to know how long they’ve been with their boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, whatever.  But make it a point to acknowledge and thank them for their years of business.  Loyalty programs work well for this reason.  Doesn’t have to be a gold watch, but it should be personal.

The next time you’re thinking about your customers and what it takes to retain them, get personal.  Those little touches customized just for them go a long way.

Get Personal With Handwritten Notes to Customers

Get Personal With Handwritten Notes to Customers

In the meantime, enjoy National Small Business Week.  Reminder your customers with something handwritten and thank them for shopping small.

Can An Honest Approach Be Detrimental To Business?

Abercrombie & Fitch, 720 5th Avenue at 56th Street

Abercrombie & Fitch, 720 5th Avenue at 56th Street (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you haven’t heard by now the Abercrombie & Fitch backlash from the statements made by its overly honest CEO, Mike Jeffries, I don’t know where you’ve been.  Under a rock?!  No, those were foreclosed on in 2009, too.  But just in case that was something that zoomed past your attention, let’s catch up. Mike Jeffries explained in one fashion or another (no pun intended), the reason why A&F doesn’t carry larger sizes, at least for women, but it doesn’t target larger size wearers.  He said that Abercrombie & Fitch’s targeted market isn’t for everybody, only the “cool kids”.  The cool kids in school.  That could be the football players, or cheerleaders,  or student body officers (I really don’t know, it’s been a minute since I was last in high school).  The point being, Jeffries clearly defined who A&F’s target market was and said quite frankly that not everyone could fit into his selected demographic.  Now many bloggers, critics and writers felt the need to personally attack Jeffries and A&F for being honest about who they cater to.  But is Abercrombie & Fitch and Mike Jeffries really the bad guys here for not showing fashionably larger people some love?  As business owners and entrepreneurs, aren’t we doing the same thing?

Anyone in business, whether they’re looking to stay small on Main Street or build an empire, needs to focus on niche market, a group of people in which they can provide better products and/or services for than their competitors.  Businesses cannot be everything to everyone (we can leave Wal-Mart out of this discussion).  That’s what makes business, business.  But, should we tell customers this?  The reason we want a particular customer at our places of business is because we’ve already profiled our ideal shopper.  Seems a little straightforward, almost too honest.  But that’s want consumers want, right?  They want businesses to start being honest and open with their dealings with them.  Mike Jeffries obviously isn’t dealing with everyone, but he’s being honest about it.  He wants his company catering to a select few.  And yet, everyone is ready to start slinging mud in his direction.

For the rest of us not operating our businesses under scrutiny and in the limelight, we may count our lucky stars that we’re not in Mike Jeffries seat right now.  But we too will be faced with that dilemma, if we haven’t been already.  No matter what industry or field we’re in, everyone is not going to fit into our customer profile and that’s the bottom line.  Now, we don’t have to be as vocal about it as Jeffries was, but we need to be at least honest with ourselves about it.  After all, if we don’t hold ourselves to a certain standard, we have no foundation to continue to build on.  Even if that means we cannot and chose not to meet everyone’s needs.

Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the position Abercrombie & Fitch takes on carrying larger sizes, is Mike Jeffries wrong for being honest about who he targets towards?  Or were consumers a little sensitive to what he had to say?


Sell Your Personality

No one really likes selling and those that do are very good at it.  Perhaps that’s why they like selling, because they know they’re good at it.  A good salesperson knows how to sell their product or service.  They know how to make the customer want it, want it over their competitor’s.  When we operate our own businesses, we have to become our own salesperson, whether we like it or not.  We have to make potential customers want our products and services and want more than our competitors.  I remember working in retail sales at a department store, Dillard’s, back in college .  And although it wasn’t nearly as hard as cold-calling, business to business or lead generation, it was still pretty challenging to get people to make a purchase even if we had them already in the door.

There’s something about going up to people, or even talking to them over the phone, and convincing them to buy your product or order our service, that scares the life out of us.  For some of us, diving right in works best.  Yeah, we’ll fumble around, get so jittery we’ll transpose our words, but after a few times, we’ll get the hang of it.  It doesn’t mean we’ll like selling ourselves necessarily, but we’ll be better at it.  A lot of the times, we find it hard to sell something we don’t believe in or wouldn’t buy for ourselves.  If this is your business, you might want to rethink the line of work you’re in.  I suggest taking the big business idea back to the drawing board.

The best way to make a sell, or selling,  is to (1) forget about the sale and focus on the customer and (2) sell your personality.  If a potential customer or client has sought out your product or service, they’re already interested.  This part battle has been conquered.  You can breathe a little easier.  If not, again, remember to focus on them: what they’re looking for, what their needs are and how can you be of an assistance.  Once you have them interested, bring you to the table.

How often have we heard how important personality plays in interacting with people?  A lot, right?  That’s because it’s TRUE.  People gravitate (and will buy things from) people they like and people who make them feel good.  And this can all be done with your personality.  If you smile a lot, smile when you talk to prospective clients and customers.  Greet them with a smile, leave them with a smile.   If you like telling jokes (and Lord, please let them be clean jokes), tell a few.  A few.  You’re not a comedian, you’re a business owner.  But a few jokes to break the ice and/or make your prospects and potentials feel comfortable is fine.  Highly encouraged, even. But keep in mind, only positive personalities will fare well here.  Mopers, extremely shy and pessimistic personalities need not try.  Remember, people want to be around those that make them feel good and those they like.

Before you go selling your company’s inventory and service offers, bring the best of you when meeting and greeting.  Be the person you’d want to be around because that’s exactly who your customer is going to want to buy from.


Business RespectWhat does respect really mean in the realm of business?  I’ve always heard that to get respect, you first have to give it.  I’ve also heard that respect isn’t given, it’s earned.  But it seems like the general masses has a fluctuating opinion on how to earn, give and keep respect.  Such a simple notion with such a heavy weight.  Before contracts and legalities, agreements and mediators, respect was keeping one’s word, one’s promise to another or to another party.  It held validation as long as the oral contract was intact.  But what does respect mean to the hundreds of thousands of business men and women brokering deals, entering into partnerships and setting up shop today?  Who earns it, who keeps it and who says how it’s divided?

I’m not an eavesdropper by any means.  I don’t listen or try to listen in on other people’s conversations.  But I happened to be in the presence of four young men who were trying to work out what seemed to be dissolution of a former agreement, a business deal gone south.  And as cordial as they were trying to be with one another, there was no masking the obvious tension.  As each of the two parties found fault with the other, the conversation escalated from civil to accusatory to hostile.  Although profane words were tossed around in every other sentence, the one word that burned my ears during their heated argument was “respect”.  One of the young men said to another (forgive me, I’m going to paraphrase here)  

Don’t come here and disrespect me!  I didn’t respect you.  If you want me to respect you, you gotta respect me!

I thought it was strange that respect was now both optional and mandatory.  How someone could work with others, call them partners and not respect them was beyond me.  Or perhaps, not know them well enough to respect them, but enough to bind them a business deal.   What is respect when you’re conducting business with a client, a customer, a colleague, an investor, or a partner?  Does it mean the ability to freely disagree?  To be at odds?  Sharing similar drives for success and profit gain?   Constructively putting the interest of the company first?  Destructively looking at for your own selfish interest?

How often, if ever, do we exercise respect in our business relationships and transactions?  Do we remember that every dollar someone spends with us keeps the doors open?  Do we remember every hour someone spends with us sharing their thoughts, time and energy progresses the growth of the business?  How important of a role should and does respect play in our businesses and why is it so difficult for us to get and give respect?

{photo credit: pinkblue via}

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What Is Business? Needs & Wants

I gotta admit, the narrator of this video sounds so optimistic as he provides the educational background of business and its importance in our daily lives.  But I guess in 1948, businesses, no matter how grand or small, had a lot to be optimistic about.   It’s stated at least twice, that business supply all consumer goods and services that satisfy a need or want  for the masses.  So many of us today have come to enjoy a certain standard of living that includes our wants, that we forget we really don’t need what we have, but have come to believe that we do.  This applies to our customers as well.  They too have come to depend on things they think they need.  Black and white television may not be your thing, but if you take nothing else away from this video, at least remember that if you create a product or service that people come to depend on as part of their livelihood, your business will succeed.  Turn those wants into needs.

(Did anybody else notice Mrs. Harrison putting in an order to have her groceries delivered without an app?  Just sayin’)

[* Video Credit: shaggylocks and Coronet Instructional Films]

Common Sense – The Real Successful Skill You’ll Need

Everyone’s trying to tell you what attributes and skills you need to be successful in business.  And they seem to have gotten it down to a science telling you exactly how many skills and how to apply them.   And of course, they go on to explain how to obtain these imperative skills if you don’t already have them and why they are so important to have for a person self employed.  What many experts, gurus, critics and know-it-alls fail to acknowledge is common sense.  Let’s be real here.   Most people don’t have it and a good number of those who do, don’t exercise it.  More importantly, common sense is the conduit to obtaining all the other skills you will ever need to be a successful entrepreneur, no matter the order or the quantity.

  • Listen – No matter what business you’re in, you’re always going to be working with and among people.  Which means, you’re always going to need to stay in tune to the needs of clients and/or customers.  By listening.  Call it feedback, call it customer service, call it complaining, call it whatever you want.  If you’re not listening to the people who you are doing business with, your ship is already sunk.
  • Communicate – Most people get a little nervous when they have to speak in front of crowds, even in front of small groups of people, say like a presentation or a sales pitch.  But if you can’t speak in front of people, how will you ever be able to sell yourself, market your business and network with your industry?  Yeah, you can tweet and post something from time to time, but there’s nothing like an in-person  interaction.  Word of mouth is still a powerful tool.  Work it.
  • Write Well – Just about everyone who texts uses shorthand lingo (except me).  And twitter makes it no better forcing us to say and spray it in 140 characters or less.  But at some point, you’re going to have to write a letter, a proposal, an email, a thank you, a invitation, a business plan, a budget, a brief or a report.  And if you think you can get away with it by hiring an assistant to do those kinds of things for you, you better know how to proofread.
  • Be Honest  – You cannot be everything to all people and you surely can’t be everywhere at once.  Know your shortcomings, know your limits, but emphasize your strengths.  Yeah, you may excel in graphic design and know next to nothing about creating websites.   Say so, but also mention the wonderful projects you’ve been on board and the success of those projects because of your creative direction and talent.
  • Learn – What you don’t know, figure it out.  Again, the reason why you can’t be everything to everyone is because you do not know everything.  But learn as much as you can about what you do so you can be better at it.  This may require some independent study, this may require a few classes at a local college, or finding someone who’s done what you’re doing that doesn’t mind being your mentor.

Logically speaking, we tend to go after the things we want and search out the things to help us acquire them.  There’s no secret formula and it’s definitely not rocket science.  Those with successful attributes plant successful habits, successful behaviors and successful attitudes.  It’s just common sense.

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses!

They are the most tiresome responses that people give to problem.  And no one likes excuses.  Truth be told, most be don’t like making excuses, but they do because they fear the alternative would be worse if they didn’t try to explain why the blame isn’t on them.  But excuses are nothing but road blocks to nurturing relationships, building brands and meeting goals.  An excuse is normally a lie as to why something can’t or won’t get done rather that admitting fault or shortcomings.   And if you’re in business for yourself, an excuse will be one of the most detrimental blows to the image of you and your company.  And accepting excuses is not much better.

Excuses hurt a business and it doesn’t matter whether the people in the business are making the excuses or if they’re getting excuses from those their servicing.  Excuses hurt.  They can mean late payments, short cash flow, no customer loyalty, poor customer service, low employee retention, poor company culture and morale, damaging image and a suffering business.  But when you put a stop to giving and accepting excuses, your business will have a better chance to thrive, succeed and grow.  But it all depends on implementing a no excuse policy.

  • The Employee – the company is run by people who have limitations and limited knowledge.  No one person knows everything, can do everything or is expected to.  So before the people in your company give you an excuse as to why they can’t or didn’t complete a task or project, first ensure that it’s something reasonable that can be performed.  And within their job description.  Let me know it’s okay not know as long as they’re willing to find the answer.  And ask for their feedback as to how the day-to-day can be run better, more efficiently and with more ease.  You might be surprise how much the front line people have to offer toward your business’ growth.  
  • The Customer – we’ll heard it for decades how the customer is always right.  Businesses have had to bend to the will of an irate, irrational and and wrong customer because the of an outdated philosophy.  The customer is human just like the rest of us.  And if we can be wrong, so can the customer.  But we don’t remind the customer they’re wrong, and we don’t let them run over us with excuses.  How?  We go over policy with them, rules, the limits and expiration of promotions.  If we have to, read to them the fine print.  So the next time a customer tells us they can’t make a payment right now or something else came up for, remind them of your business’ policies, about late fees, and other consequences.  Customers tend to have less excuses and are more willing to cooperate when it’ll cost them.
  • The Business/ Owner (You) –  we our own own worst enemy.  We’ll doubt ourselves, we’ll sabotage our progress and we’ll rest on our laurels.  Stop!  Success is achieved through both time and practice.  Take the time to be patience with the growth of your business, take the time to learn as you’re growing the business and be open to suggestions and feedback.  Practice what you’re good at until you are an expert at it.   Take time to listen to your employees and customers and put to practice their ideas and thoughts that’ll work well.  Always strive for improvement, not perfection.  Above, never let yourself give an excuse as to why your business isn’t succeeding.  It’s just a lie to cover that you don’t want or feel you can do all you need to be successful.   It’s just an excuse.